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Star Ocean 2 (PS1)

Star Ocean: The Second Story PSX
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Genre: Action, Role-Playing (RPG)
Perspective: Bird's-eye view, Side view
Setting: Fantasy, Sci-fi / futuristic
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.
Developed by: tri-Ace Inc.
Released: 1999
Platform: PlayStation (PSX, PS1)

One of the last games. released on "Super Nintendo" in 1996, there was an RPG called "Star Ocean", which, in addition to a gigantic cartridge size (48 Mbit !!!), was also distinguished by an excellent developed role-playing system, which served as an example for many Japanese game designers. Alas. the game was never translated into English, and the loss is on par with Final Fantasy V ... However, when tri-Ace (creator of Star Ocean and another successful SNES RPG, Tales of Phantasia ") with the help of" Namco "released" Tales of Destiny ", which became an instant hit, the fate of the SO sequel was decided - the English version will be!

This happened after almost a year of localization work (release dates - 1997 and 1999 in Japan and the USA, respectively). S02's plot begins twenty years after the end of the first part of the game. After a team of heroes led by Ratix destroyed the space monster Jie Revors. relative peace has come to the universe. One of Ratix's comrades-in-arms, Ronixis of Kenya, was appointed Commander of the Earth's space fleet, in the intervals between expeditions he married and became a father. His son Claude followed in his father's footsteps and, despite his disgust for his studies and the army, soon became Ronixis's assistant on his flagship cruiser Kalnus. And so on one of their long expeditions, they discovered an undiscovered planet with signs of life and a strange resistance to the rays of scanners.

Remembering his combat youth, Ronixis assembles an airborne team and, taking his son for educational purposes, goes to the surface of the planet. There they find a strange device, which, despite all the warnings, Claude decides to try in action. The device turned out to be a primitive, but working teleporter. and took the younger Kenya into the unknown ... Honestly, I really liked the S02 script. Without wasting time inventing super-original ideas, the planners from "tri-Ace" managed to sculpt a plot out of clichés and a small amount of imagination that holds the player to the very end, firmly leading him through all conceived points and occasionally surprising with unexpected turns. In addition, at the beginning of the game you have to choose one of the two main characters - Claude Kenya or the alien girl Rena Lanford. And although the passage for each of them does not differ much, getting two different games instead of one is already good! In general, in terms of the elements that make you go through your favorite game again and again (the so-called "replayability") "Star Ocean 2". seems to be interrupting everything that has happened so far. To really say: "I pulled everything out of the game!", You have to go through it about 100 (one hundred) times !!! And this is the minimum. Not only can you choose one of two heroes, plus on three difficulty levels (the "Galaxy" and "Universe" modes are available at the re-start, subject to your good success in the first playthrough), but at the end you will find one of 88 ( eighty-eight, if anyone does not believe the numbers) end cutscenes !!! But the script is perhaps the weakest point in the entire game. The quality of the technical performance is simply amazing! The graphics made in the likeness of "Sa * Ga Frontier" (silicone backgrounds and sprite characters) evoke the kindest and most joyful feelings. The world around us is rendered with a thoroughness comparable only to Final Fantasy VIII. and the heroes are beautifully animated. despite the fact that the level of pixelation is an order of magnitude lower than in "Xenogears". After the faded "Tales of Destiny" I didn't expect this from "tri-Ace"! True, the anime videos were replaced by silicone miracles from the well-known computer graphics studio "LINKS" in Japan, but I have never regretted it. The cutscenes in S02 are almost a piece of art in themselves! Moreover, all anime fans will not be left without a gift - the characters were designed by Minato Koio, apparently an artist known in the land of the Rising Sun. The name of an obscure draftsman would not have been included in the initial menu ... There were no particularly bright names in the writing of the soundtrack, but this probably only did him good. The unnamed composer worked with all his heart and managed to create a truly atmospheric and beautiful musical background. But I was especially pleased with the voice acting. SCEA spared no expense in hiring professional actors (not local popcorn sellers) to record as many as 1,278 samples of the battle. By the way, about the battles. After the overwhelming success in the United States of the "Tales of Destiny" combat system, completely running in real time, the Japanese decided not to invent something new, following the path of improvements and improvements. These include three-dimensionality, various dangers on the battlefield (falling columns, trolleys, etc.) and many other chips. At the beginning of the game you will have a choice - "Manual": you assign the enemy yourself, "Auto": your hero beats the enemy closest to him and "Semi-Auto": what is its difference, I still do not understand ... You control you will be only one of the four characters in the combat team (you can take eight heroes in total), the rest will be controlled by the computer according to the tactics you have chosen in advance. And although your automated brothers-in-arms will not differ in special tactical skill, their help is not small. In addition, at any time you can switch "leadership" to another member of the team, which I highly recommend in difficult battles - the computer is good at hacking (for example, it chooses the most effective techniques), but in terms of the subtle use of magic it is weak ... Alas , not without sensitive flaws ... The most important of them is the control over the quality of the blow.
Let me explain. With any selected system, the battle will take place according to the following scheme - you press the hit button and watch the hero run to the enemy and painfully hit him in the skull. BUT! The computer needs to be sure that you HIT the chosen enemy! Therefore, if the enemy decides to avoid the blow and quickly crawls in the opposite direction, your hero will AUTOMATICALLY run after him !!! It's hard to come up with the worst in supposedly "real time" ... Why? Yes, all over! For example, if the enemy is faster than your hero, then he can easily run away from him for a couple of minutes, while his colleagues rip off the legs of your magicians ... How many bad words I said at such moments cannot be counted even on the latest computers ... Graphically the battles were realized on a solid "four". Quite pleasant backgrounds (with a considerable number of all sorts of interesting things like mirrors), good animation of the fighting, original spell execution, although they did not avoid the "FF syndrome" - and towards the end of the game they can last almost a minute! Everything could have been more beautiful, but here I am digging. Everything can not be good in our life ... But, in addition to the exciting process of catching and killing monsters, an RPG claiming to be a hit status should also have an interesting role-playing part. Here S02 surpasses the wildest expectations! Each new passage will bring you new, hitherto unseen moments! Although I was not particularly pleased with this - I like to go through such games to the maximum, squeezing the best out of them, but here, apparently, this will never be done ... In addition to the usual Experience points, your heroes will also receive Skill points (SP, Skill Points). On them, you can develop any of a great number of Skills, then use them on your way. Do you want to be a great musician? Easy! Learn musical Skills, buy any instrument and go! If you want to be a qualified chef / writer / mechanic and who knows who else - please, there are such opportunities too. Even for lovers of the Dark Force there are ways - for example, stealing or forging documents. Another point is that all your actions will be reflected in intra-team relations. You cannot see their indicator in the game, but they are, and they are responsible for what kind of final splash screen you watch. It is clear that if you spent most of your time stealing from your own comrades or forging various advice notes, you will end up sitting in a heap of loot and proud loneliness ... The most effective way to influence the relations of your associates is "Private Action" Actions). This function is activated by clicking on the "Square" when approaching a more or less populated area of ​​the terrain and allows you to enter it not with the whole team, but one by one. And finding your companions on vacation in various parts of cities and towns, you can sometimes open small plot scenes, the choice in which will affect the indicators of love and friendship ... The nonlinearity of the role-playing process even touched the choice of heroes in your team. Here you are free to act at your own discretion (finally!). With the maximum level of misanthropy, you can even complete the game with a minimum composition - two, although in practice this is impossible.

In general, after the first couple of hours playing the game, I doubted my eyes and climbed to look at the packaging - if there was a familiar inscription "Squaresoft" ... And I was very surprised when I did not find it. Yes, "Star Ocean 2" for all its merits is not yet "Final Fantasy". But very close! In my memory, only "Xenogears" was closer ... The title of the best RPG of 1999 belongs to FF8 a priori, but so far "Star Ocean 2: Second Story" looks like a worthy candidate for second place!